1 –  2 – 3 – 4 – 5. A 5-year hiatus in the Nigerian music industry is almost as good as retirement. It is near impossible for an artist to make a comeback after such a long break and expect to be welcomed with the same energy, except the artist is Asa or Lagbaja. Artists who took shorter breaks in the past are either permanently retired or they are battling to come out of obscurity to return to the spotlight.

Lagbaja, the Africalypso musician, has however disappeared and reappeared so often that it has become a part of his artistic identity. Asa is starting to become known with this habit and the impending release of her new album would be the litmus test of the success of her reappearance, although the warm anticipation which followed her teasing social media posts and the acceptance of her new single are already promising signs.

The reason an Asa would succeed in making a seamless return from a creative hermit, while an average Nigerian musician would struggle to make a comeback from an extended break, is spread across a range of factors. Principal among these factors is the difference in branding. This ties into Asa’s identity as an elite singer with a distinctive music style. It ties into her charming innocence and flawless grace. It ties into her reputation for scarce but elegant releases.

This unique identity of Asa’s has been built over a long period of more than a decade, with a defined pattern of roll-outs, a consistent show of artistic brilliance, a habit of reclusiveness that is accepted with  the popular belief that “Asa does not always release materials and whenever she does, it comes out excellent.” This common belief translates into music consumers valuing Asa’s music and considering it as premium quality – a product which is worth the wait.

“Asha”, the debut album of the singer, houses defining songs like “Jailer” and “Fire on the Mountain”, which helped establish the warm and rich amount of social consciousness in her music. “Beautiful Imperfection”, which came years later, built on the pre-existing foundation of her artistry (brand), with well-received songs like “Be My Man” and “Questions”, which explores the subject of human social interactions, particularly from the angle of a woman.

Asa took another stretched break, 4 years precisely, before releasing another album, “Bed of Stone.” The 14-track album achieved both critical and commercial acclaim, with constituent songs likes “Eyo” and “Satan Be Gone” becoming playlist-and radio-popular. The elements which characterize the artistry of Asa, like social consciousness and sonic elegance, remained consistent in the album. This further consolidated the value of the Asa brand.

The Asa brand, for more than a decade, has been mould in the frame of an elegant and especial musician whose art contains a substance of value – valuable enough to be served purposefully rations. This is the reason she is likened to Adele – an artist renowned globally for her seclusive artistic brilliance. Asa has built a similarly powerful brand which has put her in the rare position to take a break from the scene into a creative hermit and return with materials that are sure to excite the fans as her reappearances come with an aura of ”the Queen is back.”

This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets

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